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Survey: N.H. residents oppose gas tax increase

A majority of New Hampshire residents oppose a gas tax increase, but opposition drops considerably if all the money would be guaranteed to go to road and bridge projects, a new survey by the UNH Survey Center shows.

In the survey, commissioned by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, 67 percent of respondents said they oppose a gas tax increase of 8 to 10 cents. But that number drops to 49 percent if all the money is earmarked for roads and bridges.

“If people can understand where monies are going more clearly then they’re more supportive of it,” said Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center. “Especially this time of year when people are driving on the frost heaves.”

Still, a majority of those against a gas tax are strongly against it, which makes it a tough political issue. The New Hampshire Senate is working through a bill that would increase the tax by 4 cents per gallon, which would designate all $32 million in new money to road and bridge projects.

The survey of 519 residents also asked questions about the Northern Pass project, expanded gambling and expanding Massachusetts’s commuter rail into New Hampshire.

Support for Northern Pass was 46 percent, slightly up from previous surveys and the highest since the UNH Survey Center began asking about the project in April 2011. Knowledge of the project is increasing, with just 17 percent saying they know nothing about the proposal. But only 13 percent of respondents are very familiar with the project. Northern Pass would send power from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire into the New England energy grid.

It’s been opposed by groups that fear the power lines will take away from New Hampshire’s scenic beauty and diminish the tourism industry. Lawmakers are dealing with several bills this session that would give favor to projects that bury lines, but this poll showed a plurality of voters don’t want the lines buried if it will raise their energy rates. Northern Pass’s current proposal would bury eight miles of lines. It will cost roughly $20 million per mile to bury those lines, compared to $3.5 million per mile for above-ground lines, Northern Pass spokesman Mike Skelton said.

Expanded gambling remains popular among New Hampshire residents, according to the survey. Although 58 percent support expanded gambling, only 47 percent would support a casino in their town.

Even with a majority of support from residents, the New Hampshire House defeated a bill to allow one highly regulated casino again this year. Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had been pushing for a casino to help pay for infrastructure and other needs. The Senate will vote on another gambling bill Thursday that allows for two casinos, but it is unlikely to gain support from the House.

In the survey, 16 percent of people said they’d be more likely to support a casino if Massachusetts began building one. The state’s gaming commission will issue a license in May for a casino in either Revere or Everett, Mass., cities about 40 minutes from the New Hampshire border. Hassan and casino supporters say these casinos will draw $75 million a year out of New Hampshire.

Finally, the survey showed 68 percent of people want to see Boston’s commuter rail extended into New Hampshire, even at a high cost to the state. The state Department of Transportation is in the middle of a study on the costs and feasibility of bringing the rail to Concord. Two-thirds of voters said a cost to the state of $100 million up front and $15 million annually wouldn’t change their views on the project. At a presentation earlier this month, DOT officials said expanding the rail just to Manchester could cost $8 million to $10 million annually.

“We were very encouraged to see that over 50 percent . . . said that they are okay with the state absorbing costs if it means economic development and bringing passenger rail into New Hampshire,” said Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments13

NH doesn't just need a small increase in the gas tax, it needs a large increase [up to 50% of the net price of fuel] phased in over 10-15 years. But the result need to be revenue neutral [offset by another tax decrease somewhere else, pick any one that offsets the added fuel tax revenues. Pick one.]. We not only need revenues for road repair, we need to treat gasoline as something we want to use less of. Why? Greenhouse gas emissions avoidance for one, and NH doesn't produce any oil, it's imported from other states/regions/countries and becomes a big economic drag on NH as much of that money leaves the state directly. We should encourage use of non-carbon NH made fuels [electricity?]. Want to see NH loose it ski season? It's maples? Hampton Beach? Keep burning gasoline [and coal, etc] and that is what you will leave for your grandchildren.

I believe we need the gas tax, but I also agree with the comments about fussy thinking. I love the idea of more rail, but like most people would rarely use it. I don't see it as a good investment for NH.

Amtrak comes to mind as far as investing in rail. I love trains too, used them all the time when I was young going into Boston. The cost now for Amtrak is pretty high. Amtrak has been in the hole for quite a few years. Losing tons of money like the Post Office.Just like the Manchester Airport, same deal When you try to get to NYC you look at Amtrak first. Then you check Manchester Airport and the cost is $902.00 for two people vs 425 for two out of Boston. Cheaper to drive. But a lot nicer to use the train or fly. Too expensive basically..

Very strange survey to say the least. Won't increase the gas tax but will spend millions on rail?? Makes no sense. I am curious about the demographics of the poll. Who besides people that commute and shoppers would make use of the rail? You're kidding yourselves if you think a rail would bring people to NH. On the off chance it did, we would still have to repair the roads and bridges. Where is the logic? The only part of the survey I buy is the part about NIMBY, this would make a more appropriate State slogan.

Use casino money to pay for roads and bridges.

Since democrats elected Lynch and have controlled the statehouse they have massively increased the budget from 8 Billion to $$$$$$$ 11+ BILLION, NH has a spending problem NOT a taxing problem. Has your govt gotten $$$$ 3+ BILLION better in the last 9 years.

In 2005 I could buy a loaf of bread for 59cents and a gallon of milk for 1.79. A lot of things have changed in nine years. Why not go back to when Mel Thompson was governor and complain that we still can't operate under that budget?

Tillie, we could certainly save money on education if we went back to when Meldrin was in office, we just wouldn't offer it.

But we would have the extra expense of keeping state troopers with nukes on the border of Mass. b

2 CENTURIES of inflation and the budget increases to 8 billion - 9 years of democrat rule and the budget increases to $$$$$ 11.2 BILLION .... yea..... that is democrats accounting for inflation - NOT !

Totally agree Jim. The problem is that we have been lied to again and again. We are told the money is needed for a specific project. The that money is robbed to be used elsewhere. They also do not tell you they are doing that. End result, not enough money to do the original job. That needs to stop. Can you imagine how much of this goes on in WA? We get lied to all the time. Yet many believe what they are told by their parties.

"if all the money is earmarked for roads and bridges" history has shown that NH lawmakers love shifting money around. It is not an increase if the money is earmarked for roads and bridges but then the existing money is just shifted to other areas. Any law must say the exact dollar amount now being spent cannot be reduced, this new money is in “addition” to it.

strange gas tax increase but $100 million and millions more each year for rail...I guess they feel that THEY will pay the gas tax...but someone else will pay for rail...

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